Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. sees ”signs of life” in its diesel motorhome chassis business, according to Jonathan Randall, director of sales and marketing for the Gaffney, S.C., subsidiary of Daimler AG.
”It’s a tough market right now, as everybody is aware,” Randall said while attending the 82nd Annual Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) Annual International Convention July 20-23 in Bowling Green, Ohio. ”But we have seen signs of life coming from areas that we hadn’t earlier. We have seen orders coming in from manufacturers at a higher pace than they had been. Our production, as a result, is up from where we were earlier this year.”
Still, Randall said Freightliner doesn’t expect to see noticeable growth in its RV chassis business until the 2nd or 3rd quarter of next year.
”That gives us time to work through what still is a tight credit market, and hopefully, consumer confidence starts to build, the economy starts to rebound and truck companies start to see more freight being shipped, which is another strong bellwether for the economy.
”Our return to normal market volumes, whatever that means, will occur with a little more stability into late 2010 or early 2011.”
Freightliner also makes chassis for school buses, commercial buses and walk-in vans. ”While all of those have experienced downturns, it hasn’t been nearly as significant as what we’ve experienced in the RV market,” Randall said. “We are near the bottom now, if not at it.”
Besides investing in development of a new hybrid diesel/electric chassis that debuted last December at the Louisville Show, Freightliner is developing new products that will be introduced later this year and early next year, Randall said. “There’s nothing that I can talk about at this point,” Randall added.
All in all, he said that Freightliner expects to emerge from the recession stronger than it was before. “We view this as an opportunity for growth for us,” Randall said. “Turmoil breeds opportunity.”
Editor’s Note: This is a review written by Jeff Johnston. His Motor Matter column runs in the Washington Times and other newspapers. He also is a contributor to RVBusiness.
It isn’t often that an RV industry development can be called “revolutionary” without bringing to mind “As Seen on TV” hyperbole. In the case of the new SatelLite trailer from Komfort Corp., that description could be right on the money.
The SatelLite is built using a new plastic-like composite material called Eco Composite (EC), which replaces much of the wood and other materials used in traditional RV construction. Advantages to the use of EC are a lighter RV, translating into fuel savings, greater strength for longer-term durability and a significant reduction of vehicle damage from leaks or other water intrusion. Those features add up to a better long-term investment.
EC has been around for a while and has been used in other products. In a much thicker configuration it’s a type of commercial armor used in assorted bulletproofing security applications. Even in RV use any surface that incorporates EC is highly resistant to punctures and impact damage – and that can save the costly repair of an RV built using standard materials.
Water leaks and the resulting wood rot are the primary causes of RV damage. When wood components, like roof decking or wall backers, are removed and replaced by EC (a completely waterproof material), it reduces the chance that leaks around windows or rooftop components can lead to expensive repairs later on. Chalk up another one for investment value.
We toured a SatelLite at George M. Sutton RV in Eugene, Ore., and salesman Terry Thiesfeld explained the features of the nearly 30-foot SatelLite model 299RB, one of five SatelLite models.
Other than some cabinet framing, there is very little wood used to build the SatelLite. Its roof, walls and floor all feature aluminum frames with polystyrene insulation and vacuum-laminated assembly techniques – but that’s where the similarity to other RVs ends.
The 299RB weighs about 5,100 pounds dry, which is pretty remarkable for a rig that’s just under 30 feet long. The usual EPDM rubber, fiberglass or aluminum roof skin is replaced by EC with no wood underlayment, and the interior ceiling is likewise EC.
RV users should experience minimal maintenance chores with the EC roof, which the manufacturer claims it’s 100-percent UV stable. This should result in no sidewall-staining chalking or black streaking, as can happen with other materials.
Not only is the EC roof UV-resistant, it’s also a single sheet of material so there are no seams to leak. All of the EC in this rig comes from a large roll of material so any component using the EC is seamless, which adds considerable strength – that’s a good idea for a product that sees rugged uses common to RV activities.
An exterior skin of extra-smooth gelcoat fiberglass with a Kevlar-like backing material is laminated to a layer of EC that in turn is adhered to the wall framing. A different composite material with a decorative finish covers the interior wall surfaces.
Due to the concentrated stress of occupants walking inside, a layer of thin lauan plywood is used as a backer for the EC on the floor. This is topped with decorative vinyl flooring. EC is also used on the lower floor frame surface as an underbelly. Not only is the EC waterproof, as are the other materials used for RV underbelly skins, it’s also a structural component, a strong material choice for this application.
Many pieces of interior woodwork, including the cabinet doors and drawer fronts and the trim around the slideout room, are plastic moldings instead of wood. The moldings are much lighter than wood and very durable in addition to looking classy.
This type of construction doesn’t come cheap – the 299RB we toured was stickered at $37,052. That price includes almost no options, as the trailer comes with a long list of standard equipment, including the 27-inch LCD TV, custom aluminum wheels, stabilizer jacks, dark-tinted safety glass, a glass-top range, blackwater tank flush system and other features.
Its floorplan is popular with travel trailer buyers and features a forward island queen bed, aft-end bath, streetside slideout with the kitchen and sofa/bed and a large curbside U-shaped dinette.
Its 5,100-pounds mean the SatelLite can be safely towed by a wide range of half-ton-rated pickups or medium-sized SUVs, meaning many families are already set with a tow vehicle.
As designers become more familiar with the materials, the use of composites is growing among RV manufacturers. The SatelLite is a good early example of what the next generation of RVs may bring.
A new towable RV manufacturing company is now setting up shop at the former Travel Supreme Inc. facility on Ind. 19 in Wakarusa, Ind., and is gearing up to begin production soon.
A division of a larger, well-capitalized corporation, the new company, whose name has not been revealed, will be led by two former Thor Industries Inc. executives, RVBUSINESS.com has confirmed.
The 160,000-square-foot facility housed Travel Supreme, until it closed in April 2008.
The startup will make multiple product lines, including lightweight trailers.
Further details, such as the company’s name, were unavailable.
It is at least the fourth new start-up RV manufacturing firm in Elkhart County this year, joining the ranks of Heritage One, Fiber-Lite Corp. and Earthbound RV LLC.
This news also amounts to another positive development for Wakarusa, located in southwest Elkhart County, which has been decimated by the recession.
Earlier in the year, the community welcomed Electric Motors Corp., which announced plans to manufacture electric hybrid vehicles in partnership with Nappanee-based Gulf Stream Coach Inc. And in recent weeks, Monaco RV LLC, successor to Monaco Coach Corp., began rehiring employees to reoccupy Monaco’s Wakarusa facilities to build motorized and towable RVs.
Fledging RV manufacturer Riverside Travel Trailer Inc., Peru, Ind., shipped its first RV, shown at left, Wednesday (July 22) to Wratten’s RV’s in Adams, N.Y., following a small ceremony that included state and local officials.
The 130,000-square-foot plant in central Indiana — about 85 miles south of Indiana’s Elkhart County RV manufacturing hub — previously housed Adventure Manufacturing Inc. dba Timberland RV, which closed its doors in January.
Two former Adventure principles — President Mark Gerber and Vice President Kean MacOwan — will lead the new company, with the financial backing of Ken Licklider, owner of Vohne Liche Kennels, an internationally known breeder of trained dogs in nearby Denver, Ind., who will serve as Riverside president.
”We are not looking to be a large manufacturer, but to build high-quality trailers,” said Gerber, vice president of sales and finance for the new company.
Gerber met with Licklider while liquidating Adventure’s assets as receiver for a local bank.
Licklider said it didn’t take long to decide to back the new venture after hearing Gerber’s proposal. ”It took me about 10 minutes to know that I wanted to do this,” Licklinder told about 50 people who attended an indoor barbecue to mark the event. ”I wanted to see things built, and it helps the community; I made the stipulation that the company stay in Miami County. It all fit.”
The local economic development authority also is assisting Riverside with a $30,000-a-year rent subsidy on the property fronting U.S. 31 for the next five years.
Riverside wood-and-aluminum travel trailers will be available in 26- to 37-foot lengths with up to two slideouts. MSRPs will start at $19,500.
”It appears to be a nice product,” said Jim Wratten, co-owner of Wratten’s RV’s about 60 miles northeast of Syracuse, N.Y. ”It’s a solid, practical and useful travel trailer.”
State Rep. William C. Friend, R-Macy, said the addition of Riverside to the local economy is a good sign. ”It hasn’t been pretty for the last couple of years,” Friend said. ”The county and the state are very fortunate to have the Lickliders here. I congratulate them for their leap of faith, and that’s what this is.”
Gerber said that now is a good time to enter the RV market. ”The market is going to recover; sales are going to improve,” he said.
The company’s target is to sell about 600 trailers in its first year. ”After the Louisville Show, we will see what the market brings us,” Gerber said. ”We have the capacity to build between 5,000 and 6,000 units a year.”
Riverside initially will employ 30 people, all former Adventure workers. “We were able to select the best workers from Adventure,” Gerber said. ”They bring a great deal of energy to this company.”
The new owner of Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.’s RV manufacturing business in Decatur, Ind., will preserve about 650 jobs, but former employees who are rehired will take a pay cut, according to the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Journal Gazette.
Fleetwood eliminated about 700 jobs when the company completed a $33.2 million sale to American Industrial Partners Capital Fund IV LP on Friday (July 17), Fleetwood said in a statement. New York-based AIP will operate the business as Fleetwood RV Inc.
Decatur-based Fleetwood RV is expected to employ 650 by next month, President John Draheim said. Between 250 and 350 former Fleetwood employees started working for Fleetwood RV on Monday (July 20).
Anyone can apply to work at Fleetwood RV, but Draheim said former Fleetwood workers’ experience will give them an advantage in the hiring process. More than 1,000 applied for jobs Thursday and Friday, Draheim said. The company is accepting applications at its plant in Decatur.
But Fleetwood RV will pay employees less than its predecessor. Draheim said he was not sure what the average wage would be, but former Fleetwood workers who accept positions at the new company will earn 10% less.
Fleetwood RV is making minor adjustments in health insurance and 401(k) plans, but former workers will have to start over earning benefits such as vacation time.
Employees will work more consistent schedules at Fleetwood RV, Draheim said. He estimated that so far this year, production employees had worked the equivalent of only five to six full weeks because of weak RV orders. Employees will be able to earn more by working full weeks for reduced pay.
Although some Decatur residents are concerned about the ownership transition, Mayor John Schultz said most are relieved many local jobs will be preserved.
“It’s very important to us they bring the production back,” he said.
Fleetwood’s Decatur operations employed more than 1,000 in early 2008. The company cut 550 jobs in Decatur last year.
Fleetwood RV’s decision to establish a local headquarters is a positive sign, Schultz said. The previous owner was based in Riverside, Calif.
AIP purchased two RV manufacturing plants, two RV service plants and Fleetwood’s Gold Shield fiberglass subsidiary in Decatur. The company also acquired some Fleetwood equipment in Riverside.
Local investors plan to buy Fleetwood’s manufactured-housing plant in Garrett, Ind., for $1.75 million in a separate deal.
RV shipments during the first four months of this year plunged almost 62% from the same period in 2008, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) most recent data. RV manufacturers shipped 43,700 vehicles through April 30.
Almost 450 Fleetwood workers in Decatur worked fewer than half their normal hours during that four-month period, the company said in April.
Industry projections are brighter for next year. Manufacturers are expected to ship 169,500 units in 2010, according to the association. That would be a 24%increase from this year’s projected sales.
The RV industry is close to hitting its low point, Draheim said. If the industry grows, Fleetwood RV will expand with it.
“We’re looking at improvement going forward,” he said.
The Vancouver, British Columbia, Parks and Recreation Board will decide tonight (July 20) if two popular Vancouver beaches will become makeshift RV parks during the 2010 Winter Olympics, according to CTV British Columbia.
Parking lots at Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks would house up to 365 recreational vehicles during the Games, at a cost of $95 per night. The motorhomes would be allowed starting two days before the Feb. 10 opening of the Games and stay until March 2, two days after it ends.
Vision Vancouver Commissioner Aaron Jasper believes the board will approve the plan, and that the project will deal with the projected hotel shortage during the 2010 Olympics.
“Not wanting to have folks camp out in the parking lots of our shopping malls, we figured this would be the best approach,” Jasper told ctvbc.ca in June.
A temporary sewage disposal, water line and shower facility would be set up, and a shuttle service established to help visitors get to an Olympic transportation hub.
Public opposition against the project is mounting.
Phyllis Tyers, president of the North West Point Grey Home Owners’ Association, wrote the board and Vancouver mayor on behalf of the group, citing a lack of public consultation with residents.
Tyers says residents are concerned about the commericalization of park land through a private RV company, noise from shuttles and garbage trucks, and the eyesore of 365 RV’s in their neighbourhood.
But after fliers were distributed in the neighbourhood last month, parks commissioner Loretta Woodcock said she didn’t foresee any controversy from residents.
“Normally, we get complaints from residents about people camping illegally on the beach,” she said. “This is different. It will be very controlled, managed and monitored.”
“It actually brings security into the neighbourhood during the Olympics.”
It is believed reservations will begin in August, after a private project operator has been chosen.
As “green” technology becomes mainstream, RV industry experts report a growing number of consumers showing interest in RVs that are smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient. For those consumers who don’t have the extra cash to shell-out for a new, eco-friendly coach, ShadePro Inc. will be unveiling two new products that will make “going green” while on the road a bit more user-friendly and affordable at the July 2009 Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) International Convention in Bowling Green, Ohio, according to a news release.
The convention, July 20-23, will serve as a platform for ShadePro not only to present its new products to thousands in attendance, but also enable the RV awning and shade company to promote the environmental and money saving benefits of becoming an energy efficient RVer. ShadePro will have six service teams at the convention offering installations and rally pricing to all attendees.
“What many RV owners don’t realize is that there are plenty of inexpensive ways to go green,” said Steve Smoot, ShadePro president. “One simple item all RVers can do to improve their energy efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint is to install shade products on their RV. This not only helps limit air conditioning use during the hot summer months, but also reduces the fuel consumption by running the generator.”
The Vista Shade is an inside mounted windshield cover for Class A motorhomes that blocks approximately 94% of the sun’s hot rays and saves energy in three do-it-yourself steps. Since the Vista Shade is a DIY product, the owner has the ability cut and create the shape of the shade they need and apply a small adhesive track to the glass. Once the track is installed, the Vista Shade simply slides in.
ShadePro is also re-introducing its line of awning shades with new features at the convention. The RV awning shade drop is now available in 6-, 7- and 8-foot heights to accommodate tall motorhomes or customers that prefer longer shades to block out the wind, sun and other elements.
By keeping the sun’s rays out and the inside of the coach cool, RV owners can afford to be eco-friendly without breaking the bank.
To learn more about ShadePro, Inc. and their RV awning and RV shade products, visit www.ShadePro.net.
To learn more about the FMCA’s 82nd International Convention in Bowling Green, Ohio or to register, visit www.FMCA.com.
Ron Haynes’ 35-foot recreational vehicle has all the conveniences of home, including a roomy bathroom, recliners, satellite television and the same brand and style of mattress he sleeps on in his Pella, Iowa, home.
“So I sleep well,” says Haynes, an avid camper – ummm, RVer. Haynes, 52, and his wife, Carol, 54, take their Winnebago Chieftain on four trips a year. And most of the summer, the home on wheels is parked at Cutty’s Campgrounds near Grimes, Iowa, where the Hayneses spend weekends. “We love the comfort and freedom of the RV,” Haynes says.
Baby Boomers such as the Hayneses make up the largest number of RV owners, according to Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). The typical RV owner is 49 years old, married, with annual household income of $68,000. On average, owners spend 26 days a year traveling in their RVs, covering about 4,500 miles.
Camping, even locally, is a chance to get away from the daily grind, if only for a weekend, says Nocona Mollendor, assistant business manager at Cutty’s. The RVs she sees at the campgrounds have become more elaborate over the years, now including washers and dryers, fireplaces, expensive countertops, built-in computer stations and more, she says. “Those are their second homes,” she says.
Many of the Cutty’s visitors park their RVs there all season, some year-round. Some take side trips with their motor homes, others never move them, she says. Haynes, who is semi-retired from the Culligan water systems dealership he owns in Pella, takes yearly treks to Door County in Wisconsin and to Florida, Arkansas and other locales.
The trips are easier because of the RV, he says. “You are taking your home with you,” he says. “When we visit relatives, we don’t intrude on them. With the RV, we have our own beds and shower.”
The family cat nestles onto the dashboard for long trips, and there is never a worry about hotel reservations or crowded restaurants, he says. His grandmother was able to join the couple recently on a trip to Florida because in the RV she could plug in her oxygen machine. And the couple bring along their Wii Fit program so they can get do their daily aerobic exercise while on the road, Haynes says. “We make sure the curtains are down,” he says. “It keeps us on track.”
Like many RV owners, the Hayneses started their camping career in tents about 15 years ago. From there, they moved to a pop-up trailer. “As our finances got better, we went to a motorhome,” Ron Haynes says. Three years ago, they “traded up” to the Winnebago Chieftain, which has two slide-outs, a spacious living room, bedroom and bathroom, a roomy refrigerator and two air conditioners. Haynes already is crafting his wish list for the next RV.
“The next one will be a little bigger, run on diesel fuel and have a washer and dryer,” he says. He also would like a one-touch system for retracting the awnings, a built-in wind meter for the roof and a desk area for a laptop. “I might as well get it the way I want it,” he says.
Touring the United States in comfort appeals to Baby Boomers, says Mark Polk, owner of RV Education 101, which publishes books and videos on owning and operating RVs. The sour economy is taking a bite out of large motorhome sales, he says. As the economy recovers from recession, a new generation of RVs will emerge, he predicts. “They won’t do away with amenities, but they will scale down in size,” he says.
“They will be more fuel-efficient and be smaller and lighter, like the European version.”
Linda Schinckel and her husband, David, of Grinnell take their large Holiday Admiral motorhome on jaunts to the Iowa Speedway in Newton on race weekends or to campgrounds with trails, where they can ride their horses. “It’s like having our home with us wherever we go,” says Schinckel, 56. “We love to sit outside our RV with our coffee and watch the sun come up.”
The couple pull a horse trailer or a smaller one toting their Harley motorcycles.
“We just throw in our clothes and go,” Schinckel says. Their retirement plan will include a bigger RV and more travel, she says.
“It’s on our bucket list.”
The Wednesday (July 8) edition of ABC’s Good Morning America featured a very positive segment following New Hampshire family of four, the LoPilatos, as they saved thousands of dollars on their family vacation by taking their fifth-wheel travel trailer to Disneyland this summer, according to a release from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
The family’s decision to take their RV to Disneyland was “a decision that cut their costs by more than half,” GMA‘s Elizabeth Leamy reported. “Instead of $4,500 for one week, which did not include airfare for the family of four, the price became $2,000 for 12 days. Lynne LoPilatos added that taking the RV made the family vacation possible: “It’s huge, it’s huge savings.”
“RVIA’s public relations team has been actively pitching the ‘affordability’ message to media outlets across the country since the economic crisis began,” said Gary Labella, RVIA vice president and chief marketing officer. “We know that American families are looking for affordable vacation options this summer, and it’s great that national media has caught on to the idea that RVing is not only family-friendly, but also very affordable.”
The segment is available for online viewing at: http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=8030316.
Winnebago Industries Inc., Forest City, Iowa, has announced its 20/20 Vision Winners for 2009.
To be honored as a 20/20 Vision winner, dealerships provide exceptional customer service to Winnebago motorhome owners traveling outside of their home area, according to a news release. In earning this award, a dealer must perform warranty repairs on at least 20 different traveling customer motorhomes, or perform 20% or more of the total warranty claims for customers to whom they did not sell.
“The recipients of the 20/20 Vision Award truly put the RV traveler first,” said Steve Evenson, Winnebago Industries’ director of parts and service. “These 137 dealerships not only provide excellent customer service to their own customers, but also those traveling the country in their Winnebago Industries motorhome. I applaud these dealerships for providing timely service to any customer who turns to them for assistance.”
Those dealers achieving 20/20 Vision status for 2009 are:
Madison RV Center Inc., Madison
New Hope RV’s Lowell
La Mesa RV Center Inc. (Yuma), Mesa
La Mesa RV Center Inc. (Yuma), Tucson
La Mesa RV Center Inc. (Yuma), Yuma
Alpine Recreation Sales and Rental Inc., Morgan Hill
Altman’s Winnebago, Carson
Altman’s Winnebago, Colton
Giant RV, Corona
Giant RV, Murrietta
Hansel RV Center, Petaluma
La Mesa RV Center Inc., San Diego
Pan Pacific RV Centers Inc., Roseville
Paul Evert’s RV Country Inc., Fresno
R. E. Barber Recreation Vehicles Inc., Ventura
Sky River RV, Paso Robles
Stier’s RV Center LLC, Bakersfield
Stier’s RV Center of Valencia, Valencia
Village RV, Roseville
Camping World RV SuperCenter, Fountain
K & C RV Centers LLC, Longmont
Nolan’s R.V. Center Inc., Denver
Steve Casey’s Recreational Sales, Wheat Ridge
Crowley RV Center, Bristol
Parkview Auto & Trailer Sales Inc., Smyrna
Camping World RV Sales, Ft. Myers
Carpenter’s Campers Inc., Pensacola
Harberson RV – Pasco LLC, Holiday
Lazy Days R.V. Center Inc., Seffner
R.V. World of NokomisInc., Nokomis
Suncoast RV Inc., Cocoa
Suncoast RV Inc., Jacksonville
Suncoast RV Inc., Ocala
Suncoast RV, Inc., Winter Garden
Camping World RV Sales, Pooler
Johnny Ketelsen Reccreational Vehicles Inc., Hiawatha
Bodily RV Inc., Meridian
Dennis Dillon RV Center, Boise
Smith RV Adventure Center, Idaho Falls
Camping World RV Sales, Island Lake
Ben Davis Chev. Olds. Buick & Pontoac Inc., Auburn
Camping World RV Sales, Greenwood
Hawleywood RV Ranch, Dodge City
Olathe Ford R.V. Center, Gardner
Skaggs RV Country, Elizabethtown
Youngblood’s RV of Paducah Inc., Paducah
Dixie RV Superstores, Hammond
Miller’s RV Center, Baton Rouge
Diamond R.V. Centre Inc., Hatfield
Beckley’s Camping Center, Thurmont
Queenstown Motor Co. Inc., College Park
McKay’s R.V. Center, Holden
Motorhome & RV Super Center, Auburn
General RV Center Inc., White Lake
Hilltop Campers Inc., Escanaba
Brambilla’s Inc., Shakopee
Bullyan Trailer Sales Inc., Duluth
Pleasureland RV Center – North Metro, Ramsey
M.B. Thomas Winnebago, St. Louis
Trailside Campers RV Sales Inc., Grain Valley
American RV Centers Inc., Olive Branch
Country Creek RV Center Inc., Hattiesburg
Bretz RV & Marine, Missoula
Pierce RVs, Billings
Pierce RV, Kalispell
Rangitsch Brothers LLC, Missoula
Bill Plemmons RV World, Raleigh
Bill Plemmons RV World, Rural Hall
Tom Johnson Camping Center Inc., Marion
Tom Johnson Camping Center Charlotte Inc., Concord
Swenson Inc., Minot
Campers Inn Inc., Merrimack
Camping World RV Sales, Epsom
Hill’s RVs, Center Conway
Cedar Ridge RV Center, Branchville
Meyer’s RV Centers LLC, Lakewood
White Horse RV Center, Williamstown
Rocky Mountain RV World Inc., Albuquerque
Sunland RV, Las Cruces
Findlay RV, Las Vegas
Michael Hohl RV Center, Carson City
Wheeler’s Las Vegas RV, Las Vegas
Colton RV, North Tonawanda
Continental Recreational Vehicles Inc., Farmingdale
Ruff’s RV Center, Euclid
Town and Country RV Center Inc., Clyde
All Seasons RV & Marine, Bend
Olinger Travel Homes, Hillsboro
Olinger Travel Homes, Portland
Roberson RV Center Inc., Salem
Triple A RV Center Inc., Medford
All Seasons Recreational Vehicles Inc., Easton
Car Care & RV Center, North East
Media Camping Center Inc., Fairless Hills
Spitler Inc., Montoursville
Tom Schaeffer’s Camping & Travel Center Inc., Shoemakersville
Camping World RV Sales of Charleston, North Charleston
Camping World RV Sales, Spartanburg
Chilhowee Trailer Sales Inc., Louisville
Cullum & Maxey Camping Center Inc., Nashville
Shipp’s RV Centers LLC, Chattanooga
Billy Sims Trailer Town – Lubbock, Lubbock
Crestview RV Center, Buda
Crestview RV Georgetown, Georgetown
McClain’s Longhorn RV Inc., McKinney
McClain’s RV Rockwall Inc., Rockwall
McClain’s RV Superstore Fort Worth Inc., Fort Worth
McClain’s RV Superstore N. Dallas Inc., Lake Dallas
Ardell Brown RV, Draper
Motor Sportsland Inc., Salt Lake City
Wasatch Front Winnebago, Ogden
Dodd RV, Yorktown
Reines R.V. Center Inc., Manassas
Snyder’s RV, Virginia Beach
T/A Safford Motors Dodge, Fredericksburg
Ehler’s RV, Essex Junction
I-5 Uhlmann RV, Chehalis
Poulsbo RV Inc., Kent
R ‘N’ R RV Center, Liberty Lake
Roy Robinson Chevrolet-Subaru & Motorhomes, Marysville
Russ Dean Family RV, Pasco
South Side Motors Inc., Tacoma
AOK RV Sales, Menomonie
Coulee Region RV Center Inc., West Salem
King’s Campers, Wausau
Van Boxtel RV Supermart LLC, Green Bay
Wisconsin RV World, Madison
Rendezvous RV Inc., Casper
Fraserway RV Limited Partnership, Abbotsford
Triangle RV Centre Ltd., Sidney
Fraserway RV Limited Partnership, Bedford
VR Earlton, Earlton
Leisure Mart and RV Canada Corporation, Ottawa
Sicard Holiday Campers Ltd., Smithville
Toronto Camping Centre Inc., Concord
V.R. Daniel Emond, St-Nicolas
VR St-Cyr Ltee, St-Mathieu de Beloeil
After facing an uncertain financial future, Riverside, Calif.-based Pacific Coachworks, a travel trailer manufacturer founded by two former executives of Thor California in July 2006, is returning to full production, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
The company, which builds the Tango and Tango Twist brands of travel trailers and fifth-wheels that can be towed, laid off most of its 150 employees in December. Executives plan to rehire 85 workers immediately. Tom Powell, founder and CEO, said he’s confident the travel trailer market will see a rebound in the fourth quarter, but “we’re still going to remain staffed as though it doesn’t,” he said.
He expects to have his full staff back by spring to work at the company’s 66,000-square-foot factory, he said.
The nearly 60 dealers in the Western United States and Canada that the company still sells its recreation vehicles to have reported a pent-up demand for trailers, he said.
“The feeling now of most people is, ‘OK, I’ve been through the worst recession since the Great Depression and I still have my job, my camper is still old and needs to be replaced,”‘ said Powell, adding that lending for trailer purchases has loosened.
At its height, the company employed 187 workers who were building 10 to 12 trailers a day. Now the company can manage to make a profit by building just four to five trailers a day, he said.
Powell, a 32-year RV industry veteran, said he had hoped to restart production by February or March but, despite having orders, he didn’t have the capital.
His company’s fate may have been much different had he not made a private stock offering that closed on June 30 and gave him the funding necessary to stay open.
Powell wouldn’t say how much was raised.
“There are a lot of people who are optimistic about 2010,” said Jeff Kurowski, director of industrial relations for the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA). But they’re not unrealistic, he said.
Industry forecasts indicate that the next year will see an increase in shipments but won’t exceed the volume of shipments in 2005 and 2006. Financing remains a challenge both for dealers seeking loans to buy new models to sell and for customers who have to put more money down, sometimes 20%, on trailers and motorhomes than they did prior, he said.
Kurowski said dealers are saying they’re running low on inventory and would like to order more if they can get loans.
There were 128,100 conventional travel trailers shipped in 2008 and another 57,000 fifth-wheel trailers, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). The trailers accounted for 78% of the total recreational vehicle market in 2008.
Only 3.7% of all conventional travel trailers and about 4% of fifth-wheel trailers were built in California, according to the group.
Powell said 24 of his competitors have left the industry in the past two years — including Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. in Riverside, which filed for bankruptcy March 10 and sold its trailer division.
“There are dealers scrambling to replace Fleetwood products and Weekend Warrior products and 22 others,” he said.
Robert Neal will take to the road this Independence Day holiday the same as millions of other Americans. But there’s a difference in their road-trip ritual this Fourth of July.
The price of gasoline, while down sharply from last year’s peak, means the 74-year-old owner of a motorhome may not venture as far as he has in the past, according to Reuters.
Standing in shorts and sneakers outside his RV at a campground in Grapevine, a lakeside town near Dallas, Neal said he and his wife remained unsure where to go next. “The gas price as it is now, it’s a maybe, maybe,” he said.
RVs like Neal’s double as a vehicle and place to stay, complete with kitchen and bedroom. They are convenient but demand quite a bit of fuel.
The travel and auto group AAA projected last week that U.S. travel over the holiday weekend would drop 1.9% this year compared to 2008, a casualty of higher fuel prices and economic worries.
Approximately 37.1 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home during the holiday weekend, typically the busiest time for auto travel in the United States, the world’s largest energy consumer, down from 37.8 million last year.
Gasoline prices are about a third lower than they were a year ago, but increases at the pump will steer Americans away from road trips, AAA said. Retail prices for regular gasoline averaged nearly $2.63 a gallon today (July 2), about 11% higher than they were around a month ago.
RV parks and road trips are as American as apple pie and are ingrained in a culture where the car remains king.
The country is still recovering from last summer’s shock when pump prices soared past $4 a gallon, crippling the already wounded auto industry and worsening a recession which the economy has yet to escape.
With that shock came opportunities for some.
Retired New York City police officer David Linkletter bought his big RV, parked near Neal’s rig, last year “brand new” from someone who hardly used it and wanted to get rid of it because he couldn’t afford to drive it.
“I got this because of the economy but it was speculative. I wouldn’t drive it last year. I thought we would just drive it nearby,” he said as he prepared to fire up an outside gas grill to cook bacon and eggs on a hot plate for his family.
The subsequent fall in gas prices he said made a trip to Texas affordable, even though he only gets 8 miles to the gallon with his RV. During the trip from New York to north Texas he said he filled up twice each day at $120 a pop.
Fees for a campground remain much cheaper than for a motel which adds to camping’s appeal when times are tough.
“At $20 a night you can’t beat it,” said 20-year-old student David Baker as he sat a picnic table by his tent. He had driven to north Texas from Wichita, Kan.
In Arizona, Dan Karwoski and his partner, Denise Robinson, were planning to drive to Redondo Beach in southern California, to spend the holiday weekend with family.
“We probably would have made this trip anyway, but when the gas prices were elevated, we didn’t drive nearly as much as we do now,” said Karwoski, a senior media specialist for a Tucson software company.
Ken LaRovere, a 52-year-old sales manager for an employee benefits company from the Reno, Nev., area was planning a trip to Donner Lake in California.
“The lower gas prices allowed us to take more trips and do more,” he said.
Green shoots can be seen elsewhere. The number of visitors surged in May at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, a popular wildlife and tourist spot.
After four months of declining or flat visitation, Yellowstone saw a huge uptick in May — an increase of 20.1% to 261,763 visitors compared to May 2008, according to the National Park Service.
“An analysis of past visitation trends also indicates park visitation typically rebounds as the country begins to pull out of an economic downturn,” it said.
There are other signs of Americans sticking close to home.
The Vineyards Campground & Cabins, where Neal and Linkletter were staying, said that in 2007 and 2008 about 10% of its guests were from Grapevine and 71% in both years hailed from Texas.
Livin’ Lite Recreational Vehicles LLC this week is moving into a new 35,000-square-foot factory in Wakarusa, Ind., which replaces a temporary plant nearby that the company had been using to build RVs since an October fire destroyed Livin’ Lite’s production facility.
”It’s going to be like the Taj Mahal for us,” said Livin’ Lite President Scott Tuttle. ”We built it from scratch and we built it for our own needs, which is one blessing that came out of the fire.”
The new factory contains separate production lines for Livin’ Lite’s all-aluminum Quicksilver folding camping trailers and VRV cargo trailers and aluminum-and-composite Camp Lite travel trailers.
An Oct. 1 electrical fire in a Wakarusa factory that Livin’ Lite had moved into just that day destroyed most of the company’s production equipment.
”The timing for moving into the new factory couldn’t be better because (demand for) our product is virtually exploding,” Tuttle said. ”The biggest problem we have right now is there is more retail demand than we have dealers out there.
”In some cases, we are having to tell customers that the closest Livin’ Lite dealer is two states away. Colorado is my No. 1 state for leads and I don’t have a dealer there.”
Tuttle said that the RV industry has yet to come to terms with the emerging market for ‘automotive campers’ such as the lightweight Quicksilver that can be towed by small passenger cars and minivans. For instance, the recently introduced 6 1/2-foot long Quicksilver 6.0, one of six Quicksilver floorplans, has a 620-pound dry weight.
”This is whole new market and there are millions and millions of people out there who want to go camping but they are not going to buy a truck or SUV to tow an RV,” Tuttle said.
With traditional RV dealers reluctant to add Quicksilver to their inventories, Tuttle is turning to motorsports and cargo trailer dealers to stock his product.
Tuttle said that even during the RV industry’s downturn, demand for lightweight equipment for entry-level campers has been on the increase.
”We have been working six days a week this month in order to try to keep up with product demand,” said Tuttle, adding that June also produced Livin’ Lites’ two largest revenue weeks since the company’s founding in 2002.
Blue Bird motorcoach owners and their coaches, similar to the one shown at left, are converging this weekend upon Vernon Downs in Vernon, N.Y., for the race track’s RV show.
The show, which was organized by Tom Warner, of Vernon, commenced Thursday (June 25) and will continue throughout the weekend and into Monday, according to the Oneida Dispatch.
“People from all across the social spectrum come together because of our common interest in Blue Bird buses,” says Warner. The group’s weekend events will include discussions on improving and restoring classic coaches. The show is also a chance for RV owners from across the country to socialize and trade stories.
“The oldest RV we have right now is a 1982,” says Warner. RVs from 1982 to 2009 will be at the Downs this weekend. Warner says, the newest RV attending is worth $1.2 million.
Shane Fedeli, the proud owner of a 1985 Blue Bird Wanderlodge named Bellavita, arrived at the Downs Thursday morning. “The name means ‘Beautiful Life,'” says Fedeli.
As he set up his RV’s awnings, more coaches arrived and started doing the same. “We won’t get too many today, but tomorrow the big ones will start rolling in,” says Warner with a smile. “When we all set off our horns tomorrow night, you’ll be able to hear us in Utica.”
Fedeli’s Wanderlodge exemplifies the general interest of this group of RV owners. Warner and his friends prefer the classic Blue Birds. “I’m lucky in the fact that I have some mechanical abilities,” says Fedeli. “And one of the great things about these RVs is that they are very simple to work on. The hardest thing is finding parts for the older models.”
The first model was made by the Blue Bird School Bus Co. in 1964 and was called the Wanderlodge Motor Home.
“The president of Blue Bird got the idea for the mobile home in 1963, when he had gone camping with his buddies,” explains Warner. The president’s friends told him he should make a large vehicle to go camping in. He did and “then everyone wanted one,” says Warner with a chuckle.
Fedeli’s RV can hold 150 gallons of water and 300 gallons of diesel fuel. It has four air conditioners, a 14,000- to 15,000-watt generator, a telephone system and bathroom, kitchen and satellite TV.
“We wanted to pick a significant place for these significant buses,” says Warner. “And Vernon Downs is it.”
Warner is a Vernon resident who thinks highly of the Downs and believes more events should be held there. “There is just so much to do here,” says Warner.
More RVs will be arriving throughout the weekend. “We all have our reasons for loving these buses,” says Warner. “It’s great that Vernon Downs has helped us coordinate an event where we can all come together to share this interest.”
How many times have you thought about leaving a job, but hesitated out of fear of the unknown – or, simply, an aversion to change?
Sally Bethea doesn’t know that fear. In her career, she’s been a medical librarian, a financial analyst, a sociology professor and – today – the president of a recreational vehicle repair business, according to the San Antonio (Texas) Express.
Her secret? When a job gets stale, Bethea moves on. In her view, life is too short – and working hours are too long – for boredom. Her latest venture, Full Service RV, was born out of the RVing lifestyle she and her husband, Don Crawford, embarked upon almost by chance.
Crawford suspected the U.S. economic downturn was going to be lengthy and, more than a year ago, suggested downsizing to trim the couple’s budget. The plan including selling their Mahncke Park home, but three dogs made it difficult to show the house to prospective buyers.
The solution? Move out of their 2,000-square-foot traditional home and into a home on wheels. The RV residency was supposed to be temporary, but they found themselves enjoying the lifestyle.
“Life is simple when it’s not cluttered with so many ‘things,'” Bethea said. “Moving into the RV required getting rid of a tremendous amount of stuff. But it’s much easier to stay organized when everything you own fits into a closet and a couple of drawers.”
As Bethea settled into the RV, she noticed her that fellow RVers often needed help with repairs – either to the RVs themselves or to the appliances and fixtures within.
“If your RV’s air conditioner goes out in the summer in San Antonio, getting it repaired quickly is a big deal,” Bethea said. “And none of the appliances in an RV are ‘normal’ – you can’t buy standard sizes to replace them. Don has always had great mechanical ability. One day, I said, ‘How would you feel about getting into RV repair?'”
Crawford was keen on the idea and he enrolled in a repair certification program. While Bethea takes care of marketing, accounting, software and maintaining the company’s website, fullservicerv.com, he handles the labor. The company is in its infancy, but the phone is ringing with requests for air-conditioning, awning, plumbing, generator, refrigerator and vehicle breakdown repairs.
She notes on her website, “Now we have an equipped tool trailer, a good software package to keep track of everything, a website you can use to view your own service records, Facebook for a little fun and a commitment to doing the very best job for you we can.”
Bethea, meanwhile, already is looking to the future – and, possibly, another career change. “I’m putting together a 10-year plan,” she said. “Perhaps we’ll be able to sell the business at the end of that period.”